I realized I was somewhere on the LGBT spectrum when I was about fourteen years old. It was a gradual thing, a general process of realization rather than an ‘aha!’ moment and, to be honest, it was terrifying. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know where I fit in the LGBT community or what to even call myself. I didn’t know who to talk to or where to turn with my questions. I was lost in a turmoil, unsure of what to do.
Years later, I’m finally comfortable in my skin and in my identity. It’s been a long process, and a scary one.
Today, I wanted to give any of you who may be struggling with questioning some advice that helped me to be able to figure out who I was and to embrace it.
Step One: It’s Okay
When I first figured out that I might not be 100% straight, one of the largest struggles I had was with myself. I had a lot of internalized homophobia and it was very hard to accept that I might be attracted to more than just one gender. It took a long while for me to realize that there’s nothing wrong with this part of me. To be honest, it’s something I still struggle with occasionally.
It’s okay to be attracted to other genders. It’s okay to be attracted to your same gender. It’s okay to be attracted to all of them. It’s okay for you to have all of these feelings and questions and confusions inside of yourself. There is nothing wrong with exploring them, and there is nothing wrong with the results that you find, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
What helped me most was repetition. I had to tell myself over and over again that there was nothing bad about the way I felt about girls. I drilled it into my head every time I felt like I was wrong. I said it over and over again until I finally started to believe it.
Step Two: It’s Research Time.
One of the best things I ever did was spend hours upon hours researching all of the different subcategories of LGBTQ+ and taking the time to understand them. It helped me to realize how many different sexualities are out there and the wide variety of identities that people have, and also helped me to understand that there are more than two genders to be attracted to.
There’s something incredibly comforting in knowing that you are not alone and that there are others out there.
Step Three: Dig Deep
Do some serious self-reflection. Look inside, journal, write poetry, do art, play music, whatever helps you to think. Explore your attractions in a sexual, romantic, and platonic way. Find out about how you, as an individual, feel about the different genders in different ways.
Everyone is unique, and every orientation is unique. It is all fluctuating and fluid, and differs from person to person. It’s important to understand that the LGBTQ+ spectrum is just that… A spectrum. You don’t have to fall in any particular place to be included and accepted.
Step Four: It’s Okay (Part Two)
After you’ve taken some time to look at things both inside yourself and outside yourself, take a step back. You’ve learned a lot. Maybe you’ve found a label that you fit under, and maybe not. But either way, you’ve taken a journey and know more about yourself and the world around you.
Some of the best advice I ever received while I was going through this process was from an old camp counselor whom I had felt comfortable enough to approach. She told me not to worry so much about labeling myself right away, but to go out and experience different things and discover more about what I liked, what I disliked, and everything else. And then, if you feel comfortable in a label, that’s great! But if you don’t, that’s okay too.
Labels change. Sexualities evolve. You discover more and more about yourself and the world around you every day, and it’s okay to keep learning more about yourself and adjusting accordingly. Everything is fluid, and your orientation is yours alone. You don’t owe anyone else a label or an explanation, and no one has the right to label you but yourself.
Overall? Don’t sweat it too much. Get out and experience life, and if you find a place in the process, then that’s wonderful.
You are unique. You are beautiful. But more than anything, know that you are not alone. There are people going through the same struggle as you, and there are people who have been through it that are more than happy to lend a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on.